Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Just a Hat ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Blitz Review & Giveaway!



Young Adult / Coming of Age / Jewish Fiction / Small-Town Texas / 1970s
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Page Count: 254
Publication Date: July 18, 2023

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Action-packed, humorous, and bittersweet, this 1970s-era coming-of-age novel is more relevant than ever--exploring how a second-generation immigrant kid in a new hometown must navigate bullying, unexpected friendships, and the struggle of keeping both feet firmly planted in two very different cultures.

It's 1979, and thirteen-year-old Joseph Nissan can't help but notice that small-town Texas has something in common with Revolution-era Iran: an absence of fellow Jews. And in such a small town it seems obvious that a brown kid like him was bound to make friends with Latinos--which is a plus, since his new buds, the Ybarra twins, have his back. But when the Iran hostage crisis, two neighborhood bullies, and the local reverend's beautiful daughter put him in all sorts of danger, Joseph must find new ways to cope at home and at school.
As he struggles to trust others and stay true to himself, a fiercely guarded family secret keeps his father at a distance, and even his piano teacher, Miss Eleanor--who is like a grandmother to him--can't always protect him. But Joseph is not alone, and with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to confront his fears and discovers he can inspire others to find their courage, too.

Just a Hat is an authentically one-of-a-kind YA debut that fuses the humor of Firoozeh Dumas's Funny in Farsi with the poignancy of Daniel Nayeri's Everything Sad Is Untrue.


Audiobook Narrated by Ramiz Monsef
Length: 6 hours, 33 minutes 

HALL WAYS BLOG'S AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: This book. I don’t know where to begin my gushing about Just a Hat, which is quite possibly my favorite book of the year so far. Maybe I start with 1978, Hazel, Texas.

Small-town Texas. 1978 and every other year of our Lord. Sigh.

I enjoyed returning to the seventies and recalling things like biking to the 7-11 and friends who joined resources wondering, “what would they buy with their pooled seventy-eight cents?” I remember the expense of a long-distance phone call and not having a quick and easy way to communicate with my parents if my plans changed or I ran into trouble. But if not for these little reminders the author dropped along the way, the novel could very well be set in current times.  The narrow-mindedness of ill-informed folks and their prejudices, stereotyping, and anger and fear of anyone who is “other” sadly persists in small-town Texas and beyond.  

“Rage. Control. RAGE.”

Author Shanah Khubiar has written some magnificent characters who just pop from the page. The emotions of the main character, nearly-thirteen-year-old Joseph, are palpable. As he tries to take control and adhere to his father’s teachings, Joseph learns to channel his anger into throwing a football, and here again, Khubiar slides in a reality of pretty much any year in Texas: football is king and often times, is the great equalizer.

Kids will love that there are curse words in other languages (Hebrew & Arabic & Farsi), and those reading with their ears will learn the correct pronunciations. To that point -- the author doesn’t shy away from using all the horrible, derogatory terms that ignorant people used…and continue to use. Hate words. I think it’s the right choice to include them because it lends authenticity to the story and the shock of hearing them reminds the reader how powerful words are, then suggests:

“Let words change us and make us better people.”

The audiobook narration is outstanding, and Ramiz Monsef’s performance perfectly complements Khubiar’s writing.  Hearing Monsef voice the characters and pronounce words that were unfamiliar to me added an additional layer of realism to Just a Hat and made the story unforgettable. Pacing was perfect and I listened at 1x speed. Top-notch recording quality, too. Blackstone Audio never disappoints.

I highly recommend Just a Hat to readers of all ages because it’s not only a well-written, entertaining story that’s colored with humor and heartbreak, but it’s also a reminder that we must continue fighting the same battles to overcome hate, prejudice, and biases that persist. 

Shanah Khubiar is a retired law enforcement officer, and she is now self-employed as a subject matter specialist. She holds a BS and MEd in education from East Texas State University and a PhD in philosophy. A student of her Persian ancestry, she incorporates (Mizrachi) Middle Eastern Jewry into her fiction, examining the historical challenges and triumphs of a different culture and narrative than what usually appears in literature. Khubiar is a sometime resident and always fan of most things Texas.

Signed hardback copy of JUST A HAT
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/9/24)

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Friday, April 26, 2024

Magical Elements of The Periodic Table, Book 2 ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Blitz Book Review & Giveaway!


Magical Elements of the Periodic Table, Book 2
By Sybrina Durant

Children’s Picture Book / STEM / Chemistry
Publisher: Sybrina Publishing
Page Count: 44
Publication Date: March 9, 2024

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In this unique alphabet book, members of the Elemental Dragon Clan present 26 Magical Elements of the Periodic Table in alphabetical order. Each member of the clan has an element tipped tail. They also have magical powers based on the properties of their metals. There are no more perfect groups than unicorns and dragons to familiarize yourself with elements from the Periodic Table. Their theme is: "No Metal -- No Magic. . .and No Technology."

In this book, Antz starts out the book by introducing the very necessary metal, Antimony on his element page. Zora rounds out the alphabet by presenting scientific facts and other fun information about the metal, Zirconium, on her elemental page. In all, readers will get some great insight into the properties of 26 elements from the periodic table. Each page is full of amazing facts and tons of FUN. There's a Magical Elemental themed periodic table, too!

This unique book will help tweens, teens and anyone else quickly absorb the elements of the Periodic Table.
No Metal,
No Magic…
And No Technology.
It's Techno-Magical!


HALL WAYS REVIEW: *CONFESSION* I loved chemistry in high school so much that I began college majoring as a chemical engineer. I got over that by the end of my first semester once I was shown the amount of studying required to be successful in that program, so that part of my brain took a back seat while I turned to studying modern languages. Reading MAGICAL ELEMENTS OF THE PERIODIC TABLE...DRAGONS made my science-y self sit up, and that latent part of my brain popped right back to attention. 

Sure, there are whimsy little dragons with cute little names and tails that do magical things. But the book is also loaded with scientific facts, fun facts, and of course, the elements of the periodic table and their symbols, atomic number, atomic mass, etc. To me, reading MAGICAL ELEMENTS felt very much like reading one of the beloved DK books where every page is packed with information and images and white space is minimal. That format encourages readers to return again and again. Brilliant tactic because each visit reinforces learning -- and likely reveals a new unnoticed tidbit of information. 

I love that there are so many supplemental resources to enjoy in conjunction with the books (there's a unicorn version of this, too), so that the youngest readers are comfortable with science and how our world works well before they study it in school. 

Other than a few typos (not surprising how much text there is), MAGICAL ELEMENTS is an absolutely perfect book to hand to your kids, including the older ones. No one is ever too old for a children's picture book, after all. 

Sybrina Durant is a unicorn author and entrepreneur. In addition to books, she offers unicorn-themed activities, t-shirts, and more. Plus, she has pulled together a collection of nearly all the unicorn books available today from hundreds of authors. They are categorized on her website by Little Kid, Middle Kid, and Teen Unicorn Books

Signed paperback of Magical Elements of The Periodic Table, Book 2
and 24 x 36 poster of the Periodic Table
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/2/24)

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

This Familiar Heart: An Improbable Love Story ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Trailer & Spotlight!

Babette Fraser Hale

Memoir / Relationships / Aging / Grief
Publisher: Winedale Publishing
Date of Publication: April 2, 2024
Number of Pages: 312 pages 

In this intimate rendering of a relationship, we learn how deceptive surface impressions can be.

Leon Hale, author of Bonney’s Place, was sixty years old, a “country boy” who wrote about rural Texans with humor and sensitivity in his popular column for The Houston Post and, later the Houston Chronicle. Babette Fraser at thirty-six was a child of privilege, a city girl educated abroad, struggling in her career while raising a young son. No one thought it could work.

Even Hale himself held serious doubts. But it did endure. The interior congruencies they discovered through a long and turbulent courtship knit them tightly together for the rest of his life.

And when he died during the Pandemic isolation period, searing levels of grief and doubt threatened Babette’s understanding of the partnership and marriage that had sustained her for forty years. Had he really been the person she thought he was? Had he kept secrets that would forever change her view of him?

In candid, evocative prose, she explores the distorted perceptions that often follow the death of a cherished spouse, and the loving resolution that allows life to go on.

TAMU Press  *  Amazon  

Babette Fraser Hale is the author of A Wall of Bright Dead Feathers, 2022 winner of the debut fiction award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her stories have received notice from Best American Short Stories, 2015 and the Meyerson Award from Southwest Review. In addition to writing fiction, Babette has been a magazine feature writer, columnist, contributing editor, book editor, and publisher. She lives in Texas.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A Beggar's Bargain ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Book Trailer and Giveaway!


The Bargainer Series, Book One
Jan Sikes

Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
Publisher: Fresh Ink Group
Date of Publication: March 12, 2024
Number of Pages: 324 pages 

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A shocking proposal that changes everything

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and for time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger.

If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

Jan Sikes writes compelling and creative stories from the heart.

She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, although she’s been an avid reader all her life. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. She brought the entertaining true story to life through fictitious characters in an intricately woven tale that encompasses four books, accompanying music CDs, and a book of poetry and art.

And now, this author can’t put down the pen. She continues to write fiction in a variety of genres and has published many award-winning short stories and novels.

Jan is an active blogger, a member of Story Empire, a devoted fan of Texas music, and a grandmother of five. She resides in North Texas.

Two winners receive $20 Amazon gift cards;
Two winners receive eBook copies of A Beggar’s Bargain
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/19/24)

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Shahrazad's Gift ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Notable Quotables & Giveaway!

Gretchen McCullough

Contemporary Fiction / Linked Short Stories / Humor
Publisher: Cune Press
Date of Publication: February 20, 2024
Number of Pages: 198 pages 

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Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo—magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Notable Quotables
from Shahrazad’s Gift

From the “Empty Flat Upstairs”

“I know that salacious, immoral things are happening in that flat,” Keiko told the bawab, the porter. (This was a good chance to use the old-fashioned Arabic vocabulary she was learning in her Arabic Linguistics class.)


From a “Little Honey and a Little Sunlight”

Give me the skinny, doc,” I said, as if I were a real swashbuckler. Not the moment of reckoning, the last hurrah, the final goodbye, the diminishing hourglass. He was shining a slender flashlight, the size of a cigarillo, into my eyes. For a moment, I saw a wondrous rainbow. But when I blinked again, Dr. Ivanov’s violet blue eyes were scrutinizing me. Instead of my ratty blue jeans with the Grateful Dead patch over the bum, I was wearing a crinkled paper gown.


From “Taken Hostage by the Ugly Duck”

The day after Hoda was hit in the ear with a rotten egg thrown by her British neighbor, she adopted a blue heron. Complaining to her friends had not been enough, complaining to the landlord and the bawab had not been enough, complaining to her husband had not been enough. She had never suffered such humiliation! She had marched to the Friday bird market and bought the bird with the harshest call.


From “The Charm”

With the two of us, the carpet slid out from underneath the bed. And there was Shushu. The wound from her breast operation had never healed, where she had torn out the stitches. Tiny black things were crawling all over her. “My God,” Sheri said, “Shushu is being eaten.”


From “Ice”

“What I didn’t tell you. I was on Hezbollah’s Most Wanted List. Along with Robert Fisk.”


From “Tiger”

I closed my eyes for a minute—I really needed to crash. My eyes felt grainy and I had a headache. When I opened them, I realized our taxi driver didn’t have any legs.


From “On the Run: Part I”

I became a WANTED MAN. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on me: “Professor Tanks Career over Contaminated Fish. Creates Dangerous New Water Computer Virus. Still Missing.”


From “On the Run: Part II”

“The demonstration against the BIG MAN and HIS MEN has become violent,” Kharalombos said. “Anyone who disobeys the curfew will be shot.”


Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999. Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bi-lingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013. Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.


Two winners receive paperbacks.
One winner receives the eBook of Shahrazad’s Gift.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/12/24)

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